International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Poll: Public support for ICC rises following pre-trial hearings

Two regions in Kenya have registered a substantial jump in support for the International Criminal Court following pre-trial hearings for six Kenyan suspects that were held between September and October, a new opinion poll says.

Public support for the ICC process in Central and Rift Valley Provinces had shown a steep decline ahead of the pre-trial hearings. But according to the latest Ipsos-Synovate poll that support has risen significantly in the two provinces, which are the political bases of two of the suspects facing crimes of humanity charges at the ICC. The two are Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, whose political base is Central, and former  Higher Education Minister, William Samoei Ruto, whose base is the Rift Valley.

Overall national support remains high, but has not registered a substantial jump because there are other provinces where public opinion remains against the ICC process. As of October, 59 percent of Kenyans support the ICC process, compared with 56 percent in July, according to the Ipsos-Synovate, which was released on Friday.

The Ipsos-Synovate poll shows support for the ICC in Central Province rose by almost 20 percentage points and in the Rift Valley Province it rose by more than 10 percentage points. As of October, 58 percent of respondents in Central Province said they supported The Hague-based process, compared to 39 percent in July. Similarly, 49 percent of respondents in the Rift Valley told polling firm Ipsos-Synovate they support the ICC process, compared to 37 percent in July.

Ipsos-Synovate Managing Director Maggie Ireri said the reason for the rise in support for the ICC in Central and Rift Valley Provinces can be attributed to the live transmission of the confirmation of charges hearings by Kenyan broadcasters, which helped dispel some misconceptions about The Hague-based court.

The Ipsos-Synovate poll found that 77 percent of respondents said they followed the hearings either by watching television or listening to radio.

There was a high proportion of people who followed the hearings, “who feel that the proceedings were done in a fair manner. Before the hearings there was a lot of distrust and misinformation,” Ireri told ICC Kenya Monitor.

“Definitely the ability of Kenyans to see the proceedings clearly has enhanced the ICC’s standing,” said Ireri.

She also said that it can be inferred that a lot of the respondents felt the suspects they support put up a strong defence, including discrediting some of the evidence the prosecutor presented during the hearings.

“May be they feel their leaders stand a chance of not going to trial,” said Ireri.

The Ipsos-Synovate poll was conducted between October 15-23 and involved face-to-face interviews with about 2,000 respondents spread across the country. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has presented two Kenya cases for Pre-Trial Chamber II to consider whether to allow to go to trial. Moreno Ocampo wants Ruto, former Industrialization Minister Henry Kiprono Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang charged with three counts of crimes against humanity. He also wants Kenyatta, Head of Public Service Francis Kirimi Muthaura and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali to be charged in a separate case with five counts of crimes against humanity.

4 Comments
  1. I think the opinion poll in this case before the ICC is prejudicial.
    Like any other court (wether international, national or local court), it is not only prejudicial but also pointless to subject a criminal case to the opinion of friends perpetrators versus that of victims.
    In other words there is no logic in asking, ” how many are for criminal suspects and how many are for the dead and those traumatised by rape.

  2. Miriti, first read. Only then comment.
    The polls (and I shall readily give it to you that in general, Kenyan polling is like prostitution, only much less ethical and much better paid) have not asked about guilt or innocence.
    The polls tried to fathom the acceptance of the trials among the wananchi, thus asked about the people’s increasing trust in the notions so unknown in Kenya herself: rule of law, and judicial professionalism.

  3. I think the reason there was an increase in support for the ICC process in Central and Rift valley could eb multiple: One, which you already allude to is that it has been demystified and people got to see the real process in action and appreciate it. Secondly, there was a general perception that the defence counsel and some of the witnesses put in a good case and created some hope. Coupled with the prosecution’s careful cross-examination using some of the evidence at their disposal made a signfiicant part of the public feel that some of the suspects could escape the trial. Thirdly, it is probable that Central and Rift Valley respondents were satisfied with the credibility of the process to bring justice.

  4. The performance of the defence counsels oscillated between childish, ridiculous and downright atrocious. The only exception to this were some briefs by George Oraro. None of these were even remotely capable of functioning in a basically Civil Law court like the ICC, and notably not the English QCs.

    Prosecution was between mediocre and bad. For the confirmation hearings however, new staff was employed and immediately improved the (low) performance.

    The two victims’ advocates were really good, and the pre-trial chamber and its legal staff were excellent and extremely fast.

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